Grim, thrilling, moving, and terrifying. If I'd known this book dealt with another apocalypse scenario I probably wouldn't have started it. Luckily, I...moreGrim, thrilling, moving, and terrifying. If I'd known this book dealt with another apocalypse scenario I probably wouldn't have started it. Luckily, I didn't know that -- I knew nothing about its plot and started it on a whim (and that Joss Whedon cover quote), and once I started it I found it nearly impossible to put down. It succeeds throughout -- as a thriller, an adventure story, and a meditation on ethics in a disaster. This is a book that, like World War Z (book, not movie) completely exceeds any expectation one might have had going into it. While I hear the film rights have been optioned, I can't help thinking that this book's ideal director has passed away, as the prose has the kind of clarity, detachment, and precision that remind me of none other than Kubrick.
Meh. A few promosing elements, but otherwise felt like a rip-off of World War Z, only without the well-realized characters and detailed differentiatio...moreMeh. A few promosing elements, but otherwise felt like a rip-off of World War Z, only without the well-realized characters and detailed differentiation of global responses. (less)
Impossible to put down. A few chapters in, I was afraid this book would become a sadistic kind of torture porn, as it starts with a woman kidnapped, b...moreImpossible to put down. A few chapters in, I was afraid this book would become a sadistic kind of torture porn, as it starts with a woman kidnapped, beaten, and caged in a box. But it avoids that pitfall with intelligence and unexpected plotting, and in the end the driving force of this book is not sadism but outrage. This thriller/mystery keeps surprising throughout, and I never knew where it was going. The only recent thriller I can recall that gripped this fiercely was Gone Girl. Highly recommended -- but trigger warning for violence and sexual violence.
It's also worth reading just to experience the breathtaking narrative flow of a writer using an amazing mix of third-person omniscient & limited in the present tense. I don't recall ever reading a book written in that style, and nowadays third-person omniscient with head-hopping within a scene always strikes me a clumsy out-of-vogue writing style. Lemaitre somehow mixes omniscient and at times limited perspective with so consistent a narrative voice that the prose flows effortlessly, and I skipped from one character's interior to another's without missing a beat. The effect was propulsive. (less)
This is a 3 star based on nostalgia goggles. There's a lot here to dislike if you're a modern reader reading it the first time. If that were the case...moreThis is a 3 star based on nostalgia goggles. There's a lot here to dislike if you're a modern reader reading it the first time. If that were the case I'd probably give it 1.5. This is old SF that doesn't hold up that well after you've read Iain M. Banks.
What I love about the book: 1) A spaceship trapped in increasing velocity and the time dilation that ensues. That's what amazed me when I first read it in 6th grade, and what brings me back to the book, and Anderson's ramjet scoops that trap stray molecules for fuel. The book goes so far out there with this premise that I keep coming back to it, even after 40 years.
What I hate: The sexual politics. The crew starts off like a Big Brother cast, trying to figure out who will hook up together. Odd that there seem to be no pre-existing married couples on what is essentially a colonizing mission. Throughout this book the women reward the men with sex for simply doing their jobs. If a man does his job, see, here's sex. Chapter after chapter ends this way. If he's feeling down, well, maybe the woman better leave the partner she likes better so she can sex the man and he'll get back to work. Really, this is where the book's 1970s writing dates really traps it. It's lost in the sexism of Mad Men mixed with 70s free sex and just adds an unnecessary Ick factor that, were I reading it for the first time today, would likely make me put it down.
So to enjoy it, I mostly have to ignore vast characters sections and focus on the plot, the science, and the occasional poetry of Anderson's prose.
Truly fascinating. A little dry at times, but brave, complete, and well-sourced reporting. Interesting well beyond its core subject of scientology, it...moreTruly fascinating. A little dry at times, but brave, complete, and well-sourced reporting. Interesting well beyond its core subject of scientology, it's a book that makes you think about human belief systems and the lengths people will go to in order to find meaning in their lives, and the sometimes tragic consequences that result.(less)
Highly readable as a sort of extended McGyver episode. While I found the characterization of this book weak and the narrator at times bothersome, I no...moreHighly readable as a sort of extended McGyver episode. While I found the characterization of this book weak and the narrator at times bothersome, I nonetheless found the book compulsively readable as a detailed "What if" scenario and rushed to finish it. It takes being stranded seriously, and applies the science of the situation rigorously. And science is really what makes this book stand out. It can make you love science again, for at its most basic it is applied ingenuity, and this book is full of that. The main character here really isn't Mark Whatney, stranded astronaut. The main character, to me at least, was science.
I would give the book a much higher rating if it weren't for the first person Mark Whatney sections, where I think the writer's inexperience shows. The tone of voice there as narrated by Whatney seem much more filled with the writer's enthusiasm for his ideas than the astronaut's. I just never bought the astronaut's tone of voice, which remained unchanging throughout his long ordeal. I actually think the whole book would have been stronger in third person voice, because I often found myself wondering why Whatney would be writing in this way.
However, I gladly overlooked all that in order to experience a realistic space scenario that replaces standard action movie clichés with the rigorous safety protocols a trained engineer would use in such a situation. As a licensed scuba diver and the son of a pilot, the constant safety steps really rang true to me.
And if you've got a kid anywhere near you at all interested in science, please do give them a copy of this book (though it does contain some swearing).(less)
A captivating literary mystery, with particularly well-drawn female characters, that perfectly captures daily casual cruelty. Initially I didn't care...moreA captivating literary mystery, with particularly well-drawn female characters, that perfectly captures daily casual cruelty. Initially I didn't care much for the ending, as I had forseen it as a possibility, but days later it has become better, and what initially seemed a little facile now seems inevitable, and the only plausible explanation to the twisted psyche involved.
This is actually the first Rendell/Vine I've read, and I look forward to more, as her writing is superb on both the level of character and sentence, to say nothing of plot. (less)